We've all experienced this garbage:
- You are on your smartphone.
- You find a link that you hope will help you in a mobile moment.
- You click with the great hope that it will be exactly what you need.
- Some irrelevant popup ad grabs you by the arm and blocks your path.
- You suffer through the ad or the countdown before getting to the site. (And feel angry or bad doing it.)
- Now you finally find out: Does the website help or have you clicked in vain?
You gotta be kidding me. This is is bad enough on a desktop browser where you have 10 other tabs open to help you. But on a smartphone, it's evil pure and simple. If we could block popup ads, we would.
Google has decided to do something to help. It's done this once already when it buried mobile-unfriendly websites in mobile searches. Now, Google has announced that next year it will further tune its search engine on smartphones to bury sites that pop up ads before giving you the thing you came for. Officially, Google says:
"Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."
Translation: If you put popup ("interstitial") ads before showing a visitor your website on their smartphone, Google will bury the page at the bottom of its search. If history is any indication, this means interstitial ads on smartphones will quickly disappear from the face of the earth.
Hallelujah. It's about time. Consumers spend more web time on smartphones than ever before. In the holiday season last year, Walmart reported that 70% of walmart.com traffic came from mobile devices. We predict that web traffic in every market and category will be majority mobile by 2021.
Sadly, though, Google's popup intervention will just draw attention to a bigger problem: Mobile web sites spark no joy. Interstitial ads (frankly, most ads) are one reason why. Poor performance on spotty networks is another. But there's a bigger challenge: Most websites aren't designed or optimized for the mobile moments in our day. And we hardly notice. We are inured to great mobile web experiences. We expect it to be awful. We suffer from the tyranny of low expectations. Why shouldn't the mobile web be great?
We will have to go beyond responsive retrofits to deliver great, contextual web experiences. To learn how, we are interviewing 50 companies who have mastered the mobile web. Ping me if you want to talk.
Thanks to my Forrester colleague Danielle Geoffroy for help with this research and post.